On December 6, 2012 Congress passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. (Magnitsky Act). The law was inspired by a Russian lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky, detained in 2008 after he blew the whistle on a $230 million tax fraud scheme involving the collaboration of Russian government officials and convicted criminals. He was arrested for his whistleblowing and detained for nearly a year before he was beaten to death in prison.
In October 2012, Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, interviewed Jamison Firestone, the law partner and friend of Sergei Magnitsky. Mr. Firestone related the horrific yet compelling tale of what happened from the time Mr. Magnitsky uncovered the tax fraud until his death at the hands of the Russian authorities. Listen to the interview.
The passing of the Magnitsky Act is a major step forward in the protection of international whistleblowers. This is the first time the U. S. Government has passed a bill in recognition of the hardship and sacrifice of international whistleblowers. This move sets important precedence for the advancement of increased protections for whistleblowers throughout the world. In addition to the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. Congress has significantly enhanced protections for international whistleblowers through the reward provisions applicable to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and under the IRS Whistleblower law, which allows foreign nationals to blow the whistle on U.S. tax evaders in other countries.
The Magnitsky Act is meant to address “Systemic corruption” which “erodes trust and confidence in democratic institutions, the rule of law, and human rights protections.” In accordance with this new law, the State Department will be required to make a list of some 60 Russians implicated in corruption and human rights violations in Russia public. Making the list public will make it harder for those Russians to enter the country, leave the country, or have a bank account or other assets on U.S. soil.
“The horrific treatment of Sergei Magnitsky that resulted in his death at age 37 sent a chilling effect, not only in Russia but around the world. The U. S. Congress, with support of the White House, passed the Magnitsky Act with overwhelming bi-partisan support. This is an historic step in the advancement of international whistleblower protection,” stated Mr. Kohn
President Obama is expected to sign the Magnitsky Act into law within the next ten days. Read the text of the